Require each and every sales rep to complete a sales strategy template for all of their targeted accounts to provide a consistent, integrated, well thought out approach to penetrate new accounts and expand into existing accounts.
The Importance of a Strategic Sales Plan
A sales plan is the “True North” or road map designed to provide a company’s sales team with specific sales goals, objectives, strategies, tactics, budget and a timeline. A requirement for any company, strategic sales plans dictate revenue. They typically span a one-year horizon – including granularity for each quarter — and directly impact budgets for the entire company.
Strategic sales planning is typically executed top down in an organization, and the most effective plans are clear, concise and continually communicated. Basically, the sales plan defines the strategic and tactical details for acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers, at a company level. It’s obvious that a well thought-out sales plan is key for acquiring new customers. For existing customers, the focus is typically on expanding share of wallet in each existing account by selling additional functionality within a product or solution area or selling a completely new solution.
For the majority of companies that sell primarily through a direct sales model, the number of sales reps, their respective quota and whether they are partially or fully ramped will have the most direct and significant impact on quota attainment.
Sales Planning Process
Most organizations drive the sales planning process from a top down approach. In other words, revenue targets are usually established by the CFO as investors / shareholders require certain financial returns. Because expenses and profitability are a function of revenue, if revenue is not at the level of the desired financial returns, then the number must increase, expenses reduced or some combination thereof. From the C-level perspective, the line of sight is on the macro or aggregate totals. In addition, sometimes issues, obstacles and challenges at the field level go unnoticed as they get smoothed out in the macro picture.
Sometimes however, a bottom-up sales planning process is the most accurate as it is a culmination of the sales strategy plan for each sales rep. This approach incorporates specific details relative to geography, existing accounts and potential opportunities because it focuses on the penetration of new accounts from the perspective of the sales person. While this method requires a systematic approach with standard terminology, assumptions and a uniform application, it will be well-rooted in market and customer realities.
Salespeople should concentrate on optimizing the sales process to increase sales velocity. Specifically, knowing the economic formula for expanding the sales model and realizing the results along a predefined timeline is a huge competitive advantage – and one that few companies enjoy.
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Sales Strategy Template – Five Key Areas
A strategic sales plan template should contain five key areas:
- Understanding the customer’s business environment
- Discovering and prioritizing opportunities
- Documenting the team’s capabilities
- Determining the relationships
- Developing the sales action plan
Strategic Sales Plan Template – Customer’s Business Environment
In this section of the strategy template, information about the account is captured using a standard strength, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT) outline. This type of information should be publicly available in earnings calls and via 10K reports or paid services. Drilling down a level from here should be a list of the key business initiatives the organization will address in the current year including applicable resources. The best plans will highlight how this information cascades down to specific functions in the organization and addresses their specific business needs.
Sales Strategy Template – Opportunities
While a number of opportunities should be pinpointed, not all opportunities are created equally. It’s important to establish a managed, repeatable sales planning process to rank and prioritize opportunities that an organization will apply sales resources against. Specifically, opportunities may be designated:
- High value to the customer and high value to the company
- High value to the customer and low value to the company
- Low value to the customer and high value to the company
- Low value to the customer and low value to the company
After applying a consistent methodology, the opportunities can be ranked and prioritized as to which best supports the strategic sales plan.
Sales Strategy Template – Team’s Capabilities
Selling is a team sport with many roles but only one team captain – the sales rep. It’s paramount to include input from across the team to discover opportunities inside an account. Specifically, different team members may have a vantage point that provides them with a different perspective or access to information that no other team member may be able to obtain. It’s vital to leverage the entire team as the sum of the parts is much more valuable than any single piece.
Sales Strategy Template – Relationships
In the typical garden variety enterprise deal, research suggests that there are about 20 people involved in the new consensus buying model most organizations have adopted. With that said, it is vital to document all customer contacts and:
- Identify the level of contact
- Pinpoint the customer’s perception of the company
- Determine the level of influence that they exert in the company
These factors should be tracked and updated each year as things change because what was a given last year may not be this year (raises, promotions, demotions, increased budgets, decreased budgets, organization alignment, etc.).
Sales Strategy Template – Sales Action Plan
In this section of the sales strategy template, the account team needs to collaborate to build a goal-based strategy statement. It’s important to document the account’s spending or potential spending on similar solutions last year and expectations for the coming year. Also, the team should delve into as much detail as possible and identify areas for up-sell and cross-sell.
Next, the account team should make assumptions about what the customer may purchase, the corresponding dollar amounts and the impact on the individual reps’ sales quota. It may be practical to provide a best and worst case scenario for each account.
Lastly, the team should include any issues and inhibitors that could negatively impact the strategic sales plan. It’s important to try and estimate the magnitude and the timing for each in an effort to limit any surprises—i.e. any negative impact to one’s sales quota.
Strategic Sales Strategy Plan and Template — Final Thoughts
While the best sales reps know all that has been mentioned, the majority of reps do not take the time to write it all down. They figure it is in their head or they have done this so many times that the need to document the information has dissipated. However, the best advice for reps is to “plan your work and work your plan.” Don’t reinvent the wheel and spend days download your own strategic account plan template — leverage one that has been tested and proven at Fortune 1000 companies and startups.